I’ve been experimenting with making Thai red curries for a little while now. It’s one of the things I love to order at Thai restaurants, bargaining with the waiter on how spicy to make it (I prefer mild to medium). I seek out recipes from cookbooks and the internet and pore over the differences in how various cooks personalize theirs. Although I’ve tried delicious versions with beef, mangoes, seafood, and more, in this version I’ve made it with chicken strips and yummy-but-rather-untraditional potato chunks.
I like to add asparagus to my curry. I love the vegetable and it holds up well to cooking, keeping a nice crunch. Asparagus is a great food to have in your diet; it’s a great source of thiamin, folate, phosphorous, potassium and vitamins A, C and K. Studies have linked it to helping prevent cancer, controlling blood sugar levels, and preventing bladder and urinary tract infections. It’s great for pregnant and nursing mothers as it protects against neural tube defects and stimulates milk production. I learned a lot from this article on buzzle.com which gave some history on asparagus and discussed the health benefits. Did you know there are more than 300 varieties of asparagus but only 20 are edible? I also didn’t know asparagus shoots can grow up to 10 inches in one day! That’s practically a super-plant!
There’s even a Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board who are “dedicated to spreading the good word about the virtues of asparagus, one of nature’s most perfect foods.” Wikipedia informed me that there is a recipe for asparagus in the oldest cookbook known to man, Apicius’ third century AD De re coquinaria, Book III.
Of course you can really put whatever vegetables and protein you want in a Thai red curry; it’s the curry broth that makes it. Red curry paste, which these days can be found in most supermarkets, and coconut milk are the two key ingredients. After that you can add whatever flavour enhancers you want- in the below recipe I’ve used fish sauce, lime juice, grated ginger, lemongrass, and brown sugar. I had intended to use honey instead of the sugar but didn’t realize I had run out.
As for protein and vegetables, I’ve used chicken, asparagus, water chestnuts, mushrooms, baby corn and sweet potatoes, because we like those around here, but really you could use whatever you want. If you’re using something hardy such as the potatoes, you need to add them before the chicken and other veg as they will take longer to cook.
THAI RED CURRY
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2- 2 tbsps Thai red curry paste (adjust amount to your taste)
1 can coconut milk
4 1-inch pieces lemongrass, from the bottom part of the stalk (or buy them in a jar from your supermarket)
2 tsps fish sauce
1 1/2 tsps brown sugar
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp ginger, grated
2 sweet potatoes, cubed (I use the pre-cut chunks from the supermarket)
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch slices (make sure to cut them thinly for quick cooking)
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 can baby corn
1/2 container mushrooms, sliced
1/2 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed, chopped into 1- inch pieces
1 bunch fresh basil or thai basil, leaves
Heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and cook until golden. Add the curry paste, and fry until fragrant, about 30- 45 seconds.
Add the coconut milk, turn the heat to medium-high, and whisk in the curry paste. Bring to a boil. Add the lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and ginger. Whisk everything in and taste. Adjust the flavour by adding more of any of the flavour enhancers to suit your taste.
Add the sweet potato cubes and cook until almost cooked through, about 5- 6 minutes. If you are using any other hardy veg that needs longer to cook, you can add them in with the potatoes.
Add the chicken and cook until almost cooked through, about 1- 2 minutes, depending on how thin your slices are.
Add the rest of the vegetables and half the bunch of basil, and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables have reached your desired consistency and tenderness. I like mine with a bit of a crunch, so this step generally takes me another 2- 3 minutes. Remove the lemongrass stalks.
Serve with the rest of the basil, and steamed rice.